There are love stories that melt your heart and then there are love stories that boggle your mind and make you question your ethics. This Secret We’re Keeping belongs to the latter category. The entire premise of the novel is more or less described on the cover itself- “A pupil and a teacher. Is it ever right to break the rules?” Jessica Hart and Matthew Landley are the pupil and teacher in question. Jessica is a 15 year old student of the school where 25 years old Matthew works as a Mathematics teacher. What starts as a harmless flirtation initiated by a teenage girl bogged down by a negligent, alcoholic mother, turns into a passionate romance and then a genuine love that threatens to destroy the lives of both the parties involved.
The story starts when Jessica, a freelance caterer, spots Matthew at a local fair, 15 years after the end of their affair. Matthew is now in a relationship with someone else and also has a young daughter whom he loves a lot. As if things were not complicated before, they are even trickier now, as Matthew has taken on a new identity after going to prison for being sexually involved with Jessica, who was a minor at the time. Even after all these years, and despite everything that happened following the discovery of their affair, both Matthew and Jessica believe that the other was the love of their lives, so when destiny brings them face to face again they can’t resist rekindling their romance.
The novel goes back and forth from the start of their affair, to the present when they meet and begin seeing each other again, and is told from both their point of views. This technique was quite effective in helping me sympathize with the characters, especially Matthew, who otherwise could easily be confused for a sociopath for getting romantically involved with a minor, even though his conscience tells him not to. Also, Jessica’s character is very smartly drawn to reflect both her naivety and maturity, so when you read about them getting intimate or doing things that a normal couple would do, there is no overt awkwardness to those scenes.
Although there are many interesting scenes and characters, I still felt there was a lot which was not explored. The author could have cut down on quite a few story lines involving secondary characters which contributed little to nothing to the plot, and instead focused more on the development or the lack thereof Jessica and Matthew’s relationship. Coming to the actual “Secret”; I could guess it quite early on thanks to the little hints dropped throughout the novel. It was not much of a big revelation and frankly, did not feel that crucial to the overall story. What worked for me the most was the climax. Just when I thought the author was leading to a clichéd ending, she surprised me with a nice, bittersweet finale. The unconventional ending made me love the whole story more than I had originally intended to.
This Secret We’re Keeping is not a typical love story, although it has many of those elements which are essential for making any love story believable and alluring. It’s a character driven story which has a healthy dose of mush, yet also has content that compels you to think about morality and the intricacies of a forbidden relationship. So if you’re looking for something romantic and offbeat, then this should be the book to pick up next time you go book hunting.
My Ratings for This Secret We’re Keeping- 3/5